Monday, February 24, 2014

Embroidered coif for Lady Victoria by Lady Tamara

An Elizabethan coif with red-work:

Here is Lydia's documentation:

I chose to make an Elizabethan redwork coif for two reasons. First, it was very suitable for the persona of my recipient and second, because I had never made one previously and it was a very appealing project.

I did an online search of the Victoria & Albert Museum website for coifs for inspiration and found many. The ones I particularly liked can be seen here:

I then selected my motifs for embroidery based on those examples, plus images from the following books:

  • The Schole-house for the Needle, edited by Richard Shorleyker
  • Festive Elizabethan Creations, by Shirley Holdaway and Valancy Stevens
  • Exploring Elizabethan Embroidery, by Dorothy Clarke and Stephanie Powell
  • Elizabethan Stitches: A Guide to Historic English Needlework, by Jacqui Carey
  • Elizabethan Needlework Accessories, by Sheila Marshall and Valancy Stevens

The chosen motifs included grapes, to represent the College of Saint John of Rila, my home SCA group. It also included vines, as preferred by the recipient.

The fabric is pure linen and the embroidery is done in scarlet silk from the Handweaver’s Studio in London. All stitching is done by hand. The stiches used for the embroidery are stem, chain, and speckle. All of these stiches and materials were used in the extant coifs. The biggest problem I had was deciding on the size of the coif and the assembly methods. A number of the coifs on the museum site have been unstitched and are displayed flat, so it was easy to see the correct shape. I made a muslin based on that shape and fitted it to my head, with my hair in a bun. I seem to have an average head size, so hopefully it will fit the recipient. I made the decision to line my coif, so that the embroidery was less likely to be dislodged when the coif was worn. Several of the extant examples note that they had lining, although I suspect it was sewn in with a whipstitch at the edge, rather than the bag method I used. I have no information for either method, so I went with the one I felt looked better. I also could not find directions for the loops for the drawstring at the base of the coif, so I improvised based on the V&A photos.

If I were to make another coif, I would make the embroidery denser. Many of the examples looked crowded to the modern eye, so I spaced my embroidery a bit further apart. In hindsight, it would have been better to follow the originals more closely. I would also like to add some spangles, but they were simply not available here in Bulgaria during the construction process.

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